It’s difficult to know where to start as I attempt to summarise our most recent visit to Kotdwara. We are incredibly thankful for all that was accomplished and experienced. I’m still in India, but have the chance to reflect while we wait for our flight back to Sydney.
Our many projects in Kotdwara continue to do well. This trip certainly gave us the opportunity to observe our projects in action and to evaluate and note areas for change and improvement.
The children are thriving and enjoying their learning and our teachers and cooks work incredibly hard. We experienced welcoming smiles, love and the genuine warm embrace that comes from a good number of years of ongoing friendship with the people we visited. It was especially wonderful to visit our seventh and newest centre in the city of Bijnor in a very remote and incredibly poor part of town, and we were blessed to be welcomed into homes and community that would never have seen a white person in this part of the neighbourhood until now.
Amit, Daisy and their two kids, Jonathan and Jasmine send their love and greetings. They worked incredibly hard to ensure for the success of the conference. We were also blessed to travel a little with them, the highlight being a visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra. It was a very special to share this experience with them, seeing them beam with National pride as they visited this historic landmark for the first time.
Our first ever SHINE Conference was a huge success with 278 women attending for the full day. So proud of our Australian team comprising Rowena, Daisy, Sue, Roxy, Sherry, Tilly, Elyse, Maisy, and Sarah, each doing a fabulous job, empowering women as they spoke and presented with confidence and passion. Max and Gulliver entertained the delegates, leading short Bollywood dancing sessions. By the end of the day, the auditorium was full of dancing, smiles, laughter and hugs all-round. I am incredibly grateful for the Aussies who worked so hard for months in advance to prepare for SHINE.
Doug’s session the day after SHINE, speaking about strategic community problem solving, to the anti-human trafficking police team, educators, social workers, business and religious leaders from all faith backgrounds, appeared to be well received (they all stayed to the end!). About 30 men and women attended and they too, have welcomed more meetings in the future.
We have already spent time evaluating our programs and putting together our ideas for SHINE 2019. At the top of the list will be to book a larger venue because we believe we will have at least 500 women wanting to attend next year. Our ideas are exciting and we can’t wait to share them with you.
On behalf of the entire team, I thank you for your interest, encouragement, prayers and generous support in so many ways. Thank you for your financial donations which made SHINE possible. A rough estimate is that the Conference itself totalled approximately $4500. Thank you for your donation of toys, nail polishes, lipsticks and other other items ...every single item was used, given away and received with appreciation and delight. The women’s pad bags donated by Days for Girls also went very well and the women’s health talk given by Rowena was a powerful and important session. It was a little distressing when many women later asked for personal health advice because they could not afford to see a doctor.
The pervading message of the conference was powerful, and gratefully received, as we spoke words of value and purpose into the lives of the women. And of course, our lives were challenged and changed too ...this is our constant experience when visiting this remarkable place and spending time with such beautiful people.
Thank you for being part of our story. You may not have been with us in person, but your love and friendship and prayers made all of this possible.